Category Archives: Force Modernization

(More) Gerasimov on Future War

Let’s round out what Russian General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov said on March 24. Though the conference was held at the Military Academy of the General Staff, Gerasimov was actually addressing a plenary of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences.

The Academy is technically non-governmental, but more accurately quasi-official. It counts many senior Russian military officers, scientists, and researchers (and even more retired ones) in its membership. It’s an august unofficial think tank for the MOD.

One can be sure of a couple of things.

First, Gerasimov’s remarks would have differed had he spoken to a strictly MOD audience. But the General Staff likely shares most of its thinking about modern war with the Academy of Military Sciences. Second, it’s unlikely KZ covered every aspect of what Gerasimov said. Some portions probably weren’t reported. One wonders what the entire, unfiltered speech sounded like. 

At any rate, Gerasimov had this to say about Russia’s involvement in Syria:

“Before Russia entered the conflict on the government’s side, this country actually conducted an undeclared war for the right to exist for more than four years. There’s no clear answer when this struggle transformed from internal disorder into military conflict. No state openly declared war on Syria, but all illegal armed formations are armed, financed and controlled from abroad. With time the list of participants in the military conflicts there is broadening. Together with regular troops, the internal protest potential of the population is active, as are terrorist and extremist formations.”

“Today independent military specialists see the military conflict in Syria as the prototype of a ‘new generation war.’ Its main feature is the fact that Syria’s state-enemies conduct covert, undetectable actions against it, without being dragged into direct military conflict.”

Then KZ paraphrases Gerasimov:

“The changing character of armed struggle is a continuous process, and all previous military conflicts substantially differ from one another. The content of military actions itself is changing. Their spatial scale is growing, their tension and dynamism are increasing. The time parameters for preparing and conducting operations is being reduced.”

“A transition from sequential and concentrated actions to continuous and distributed ones, conducted simultaneously in all spheres of confrontation, and also in distant theaters of military operations is occurring.”

The MOD daily quotes him again:

“The requirements for troop mobility are becoming more severe. The transition to systematic destruction of the enemy on the basis of integrating the forces of all strike and fire means into a single system is occurring. The role of electronic warfare, information-technical and information-psychological actions is increasing. The growth in the share of precision weapons supports pinpoint and selective target destruction, including critically important ones, in real time.”

On the growing size of theaters of military operations:

“They encompass areas with installations of military and economic potential located at a significant distance from the zone of immediate military actions. The scale of employing remotely-controlled robotic strike systems is growing. In a complicated, rapidly-changing situation, the capability to control troops and forces effectively is acquiring special importance.”

This is when Gerasimov said every conflict has its own features and talked about targeting the enemy’s economy, C3, reconnaissance, and navigation systems.

He said:

“The organization development and training of the RF Armed Forces is being realized accounting for these tendencies in the changing character of armed struggle.”

KZ paraphrases the General Staff Chief’s words about balanced development of the armed services and the provision of modern weapons. Reserves and the VDV — with their new tank, EW, and UAV capabilities — will reinforce troop groupings in strategic directions. Here Gerasimov also mentioned the extension of air and fleet deployment areas — including to the Arctic. Then Gerasimov described groupings of cruise missile launchers established in all strategic directions, reducing the time to fire them, and developing unmanned reconnaissance-strike systems.

According to KZ’s account, Gerasimov referenced President Vladimir Putin’s March 1 description of Russia’s future strategic weapons. He said new missiles and other weapons — including hypersonic ones and those “without foreign analogues” — will have increased capability to overcome U.S. missile defenses. He ended with his statement that new precision systems — including hypersonic missiles — will allow for non-nuclear strategic deterrence.

It’s quite a vision of the Russian military and what it needs to do in the future. It sounds like it describes the situation in a military already at war. But Gerasimov and his troops have a way to go to achieve all of this.

One senses in the General Staff Chief’s comments a reaction to Russia’s recent participation in old-school kinetic conflicts (albeit with the use of modern ground-, sea-, and air-launched missiles) in Ukraine and Syria. It could be a call to develop Russia’s command and control warfare capabilities.

Finally, it’s possible to hear the lingering echo of Soviet Marshal Nikolay Ogarkov’s words from 34 years ago:

“. . . rapid changes in the development of conventional means of destruction and the emergence in the developed countries of automated reconnaissance-strike systems, long-range precision terminally-guided combat systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, and qualitatively new electronic control systems make many types of weapons global and make it possible to increase sharply (by at least an order of magnitude) the destructive potential of conventional weapons, bringing them closer, so to speak, to weapons of mass destruction in terms of effectiveness. The sharply increased range of conventional weapons makes it possible immediately to extend active combat operations not just to border regions, but to the whole country’s territory, which was not possible in past wars. This qualitative leap in the development of conventional means of destruction will inevitably entail a change in the nature of the preparation and conduct of operations, which will in turn predetermine the possibility of conducting military operations using conventional systems in qualitatively new, incomparably more destructive forms than before.”

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Gerasimov on Future War

Army General Gerasimov addressing the conference

Army General Gerasimov addressing the conference

Russia’s General Staff Chief and First Deputy Defense Minister Army General Valeriy Gerasimov delivered the keynote before a “military-operational conference” at the Military Academy of the General Staff yesterday.

His address rehashed the Kremlin’s view of the world (and of the U.S.) but it also picked up where President Vladimir Putin left off in his March 1 speech on Russia’s new “invincible” weapons.

But rather than Russia’s putative future strategic weapons, Gerasimov focuses on deterrence, command and control, and conventional operations. He describes “inter-service groupings” and cruise missiles deployed in strategic directions. He stresses destruction of the enemy’s command and control and improvements in Russia’s. Finally, he discusses integrating reconnaissance to speed mission planning for precision strikes.

In one form or another, Gerasimov’s remarks will almost certainly be the lead story in tomorrow’s Krasnaya zvezda.

Some excerpts published by Russia media outlets follow.

From TASS:

“Today the U.S. commitment to maintaining global dominance and a monocentric world order through every possible means, including military, is critical for the development of the military and political environment in the world. This conflicts with the views of many countries, including Russia, which consider global leadership inappropriate and advocate a just world order.”

“As a result a transnational struggle has sharply accelerated. It is still based on non-military measures — political, economic and information. Moreover, apart from mentioned areas it has gradually spread over all activities of the modern society – diplomatic, scientific, cultural, and has virtually swept across the board.”

“The reality shows that economic, political, diplomatic and other non-military measures taken by the west against dissenting countries go together with the threat of military force employment or its direct employment.”

“The U.S. and its allies often employ military force in circumvention of generally accepted norms of international law or on the base of distorted renderings of those norms for its own benefit, under the slogan of protecting democracy.”

From Interfaks-AVN:

“It goes without saying that each military conflict has its own distinctive features. Broad employment of precision and other types of new weapons, including robotic ones, will be fundamental characteristics of future conflicts. The enemy’s economy and state command and control system will be the priority targets. Besides traditional spheres of armed struggle, the information sphere and space will be actively involved.”

“Countering communications, reconnaissance and navigation systems will play a special role.”

“These are just the contours of the most probable war of the future. Together with them, the spectrum of possible conflicts is extremely broad and the Armed Forces have to be ready for any of them.”

“The possibility that armed conflicts will arise simultaneously in various strategic directions predetermined the creation of inter-service groupings of troops and forces in the military districts which guarantee the effective conduct of combat actions by military personnel in peacetime as well as in wartime.”

TV Zvezda quotes Gerasimov as saying the experience of recent “local wars” and operations in Syria has “given a new impulse” to the development of Russia’s weapons systems. He also said:

“In each strategic direction, groupings of long-range air- and sea-based cruise missile delivery platforms capable of deterrence in strategically important areas have been established.”

Again Interfaks-AVN:

“In the future, the increase in possibilities of precision weapons, including hypersonic ones, will allow for transferring the fundamental part of strategic deterrence from the nuclear to the non-nuclear sphere.

More from Interfaks-AVN:

“Improvements in the structure of command and control organs, the establishment of special information support sub-units, and also the introduction of computer systems allowed for reducing the time to prepare to use a long-range precision weapon in combat by 1.5 times.”

Interfaks-AVN again:

“Reconnaissance-strike and reconnaissance-fire systems are being developed which aim to support the effectiveness and continuity of fire suppression on the enemy. The integration of reconnaissance-information and information-command systems with the weapons systems of services and troop branches is being implemented.”

“Work to develop an inter-service automated reconnaissance-system is being conducted. It should result in reducing the time cycle for completing fire missions — from reconnaissance to target destruction — by 2-2.5 times. At the same time, the accuracy of targeting will increase by 1.5-2 times, and the potential for delivering precision weapons will expand.”

And back to Interfaks-AVN:

“The broadening scale of using unmanned aviation systems (UAS) and the difficulty of defeating them with existing air defense systems requires creation of an effective system of counteraction. Future systems to counter the employment of UAS, including those based on new physical principles, are being developed and have started to enter the force.”

“Priority attention is being given to developing the Armed Forces’ command and control systems. Development of modern means of combat control and communications integrated in a single information space is being realized. The system of modeling the Armed Forces has received new development.”

“The level of automation of the processes of situational information collection and analysis and combat action planning will grow because of the introduction of the unified automated system of troop and weapons command and control at the tactical level [YeSU TZ], the development of which was finished last year. This year supplies of it in sets to motorized rifle and tank formations and units are beginning.”

And finally TASS with more on UAS and EW:

“Currently the development of future multipurpose systems is being completed. Their introduction into the inventory will allow for fulfilling not only reconnaissance, but also strike missions where the employment of other means is difficult or less effective.”

“The troops are being outfitted with systems of electronic warfare against aerospace means, navigation systems and digital radio communications. Means of counteracting precision weapons are being perfected.”

Engine Trouble

The Russian media report more trouble for project 11711 LST Ivan Gren (BDK 135). During state trials, the new tank landing ship has been unable to run astern (reverse engines and go backwards). [Did Yantar shipyard really not discover this issue during its factory underway testing?] This comes atop Gren’s earlier degaussing problem which kept the Russian Navy from accepting the ship before the end of 2017.

Ivan Gren (BDK 135)

Ivan Gren (BDK 135)

Yantar announced on February 20 that it might launch unit two, Petr Morgunov, in the second half of May. It’s also sticking to its promise, however unlikely, to deliver the completed LST to the Russian Navy before the end of 2018.

Yantar indicated the second unit’s port and starboard 16ChN26/26 (aka 10D49) diesel engines will be swapped to see if this remedies the astern running problems Gren experienced. But the work on Morgunov has to be done by late April to keep to its launch schedule.

If the swap works, the same [actually, perhaps even more] difficult process will be performed on Gren. But it will apparently be accepted into the fleet in May before its engine trouble is fixed.

Flotprom.ru reports the engine swap will alter the turning of ship’s propellers and eliminate the astern running problem. Any naval engineers out there are invited to explain how this could work to the rest of us! The shipbuilding industry site indicates trading engine places is complex and can consume several months.

The media also report that Gren now lacks good seakeeping qualities due to the many design changes made during its protracted construction. They even claim that the Russian Navy will forego further ships in this class, basically a modification of the Soviet-era project 1171 Alligator-class LST. How Moscow would fill the gaps in its small and rapidly aging landing ship force is anyone’s guess. 

Gren and Morgunov are 5,000 tons displacement and 120 meters long, and can cruise at 18 knots. They have a 100-man crew, and can carry 13 tanks or 36 armored vehicles and 300 troops. They are outfitted with AK-630 30-mm gun systems and a landing deck for a Ka-27 or Ka-29 helo.

The Annual Report

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin addressed an expanded session of the MOD Collegium at the new RVSN training facility in Balashikha on December 22.

Putin

According to the Kremlin.ru transcript, Putin gave attention to Syria, where he said the Russian Federation Armed Forces displayed “qualitatively developed modern capabilities” to deliver the “decisive contribution” to the defeat of international terrorists.

Putin said Russian arms and equipment will be nearly 60 percent modern by the end of 2017, and 70 percent by 2021. Again that word modern. Russia, he declared, will be a world leader in developing a “new generation” army.

The Russian leader took pains to accuse the U.S. of violating the 1987 INF Treaty.

He indicated Moscow’s priorities in the next GPV will be precision weapons,  unmanned strike systems, individual soldier systems, reconnaissance, communications, and EW systems. Not very different from what he said last year.

Preserving strategic nuclear parity is a perennial priority. Putin said the Russian triad would be 79 percent modern at end of 2017. By 2021, Russian ground-based ICBMs are supposed to be 90 percent modern.

Russia’s president also called for strengthening the SSO and VDV.

All in all, there’s less of interest in Putin’s report than Shoygu’s.

Shoygu

Shoygu had much to say about Syria as a training ground for the Russian Army and Russian pilots. Some figures were new. Others we’ve heard before.

He said 48,000 Russian troops fought in Syria over the last two years. The Aerospace Forces (VKS) flew 34,000 combat missions. The Navy delivered 100 strikes, presumably Kalibr LACMs. Long-Range Aviation flew 66 strike missions. Shoygu reported that 60,318 enemy fighters were killed, including 819 leaders and 2,840 Russian Federation expatriates.

Then the head of the MOD got to what the Russian military received in 2017:

  • Three mobile RVSN regiments were fully reequipped with RS-24 Yars ICBMs;
  • LRA got three modernized bombers;
  • The army got 2,055 new or modernized systems to reequip three formations [divisions or brigades] and 11 units [regiments];
  • VKS received 191 aircraft and 143 air and missile defense systems;
  • Ten ships and boats, 13 support ships, and four land-based Bal (SSC-6 / Sennight) and Bastion (SSC-5 / Stooge) ASCM systems probable “battalion sets” entered the Navy. Naval aviation got 15 aircraft;
  • VDV acquired 184 armored vehicles and SP guns;
  • The armed forces got 59 UAV systems with 199 UAVs;
  • The Unified Tactical Level Command and Control System (YeSU TZ) now meets the MOD’s requirements and was used successfully in combat training.

Compare this list with 2016. And for reference, with year-enders for 2015 and 2014.

Shoygu expounded on the list of weapons and equipment acquired since 2012. It was originally outlined in less detail by Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov in a November 1 interview with VPK. The list included:

  • 80 ICBMs;
  • 102 SLBMs;
  • Three Borey-class SSBNs;
  • 55 satellites;
  • 3,237 tanks and combat vehicles;
  • More than 1,000 planes and helicopters;
  • 150 ships and vessels;
  • Six proyekt 636.3 Improved Kilo diesel-electric submarines;
  • 13 Bal (SSC-5 / Stooge) and Bastion (SSC-6 / Sennight) launchers probable “battalion sets.”

Shoygu said this procurement enabled the MOD to outfit:

  • 12 RVSN regiments with RS-24 Yars ICBMs;
  • 10 missile brigades with Iskander-M SRBMs;
  • 12 regiments with MiG-31BM, Su-35S, Su-30SM, and Su-34 aircraft;
  • Three army aviation brigades and six regiments with Ka-52 and Mi-28 helicopters;
  • 16 air defense regiments with S-400 SAMs;
  • 19 battalions with Pantsir-S gun-missile systems;
  • 13 battalions with four Bal and Bastion ASCMs apiece;
  • 35 formations with Ratnik-2 individual soldier systems;
  • Six new Voronezh radar systems and refurbished Daryal, Dnepr, and Volga systems.

The Defense Minister said the Russian Armed Forces now have 59.5 percent modern arms and equipment. Specific service percentages are:

  • RVSN — 79 percent;
  • Ground Troops — 45 percent;
  • Aerospace Forces — 73 percent;
  • Navy — 53 percent.

Much of what’s claimed seems like it happened. Some seems disputable. “More than 1,000 planes and helicopters” seems a stretch. CAST counted 370 fighters and trainers since 2012. Do helos and transports account for the other 630? Other claims are useful starting points but require research.

Iskander-M in Kaliningrad

It’s always been clear Moscow would deploy new Iskander-M SRBMs in its Baltic exclave Kaliningrad. Now it has.

Iskander-M comes to Kaliningrad

Iskander-M comes to Kaliningrad

The folks at CAST posted the news to their blog on Saturday. They were impressively attentive to the military press while yours truly remained in a slothful tryptophan-induced post-Thanksgiving stupor.

Let’s look at what CAST saw.

On November 23, KZ wrote that the next “brigade set” of Iskander-M missiles has just been handed over to a missile formation from the Western MD. The MOD paper noted that Colonel Anatoliy Gorodetskiy commands the brigade in question. That is the 152nd Missile Brigade based at Chernyakhovsk in Kaliningrad. For now, the formation is still practicing with its new equipment on the range at Kapustin Yar.

As CAST noted, this is the eleventh “brigade set” delivered to Russian ground forces.

Iskander-M SRBMs in Kaliningrad can reach targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, even southern Sweden

Iskander-M SRBMs in Kaliningrad can reach targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, even southern Sweden

With reported 500-km range from Kaliningrad, the Iskander-M can cover targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, and southern Sweden. If armed with cruise missiles (SSC-8 or Russian designator 9M729), their reach is much greater. Their 2,000-km or greater range allows them to strike targets close to Paris.

Why Now? Why Not?

Iskander-M in Kaliningrad was always just a question of timing.

Since at least 2014, the Russian Army has temporarily deployed Iskander-M launchers to Kaliningrad from the “mainland” for exercises.

As CAST reported, Jane’s Defence Weekly published photographs of characteristic “tent-mobile shelters” under construction for the new SRBMs at the Chernyakhovsk base in February.

But why now? Because the missiles and associated equipment have been produced and Moscow loses nothing at this point.

The Kremlin always said it could deploy the new SRBMs to its Baltic exclave to counter Aegis BMD (Aegis Ashore) in Poland slated for completion in 2018.

There are enhanced U.S. and NATO ground deployments to Poland to assure the easternmost allies in the wake of Russia’s occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Perhaps relevant here is the possibility the U.S. Congress will authorize DOD development of a new U.S. intermediate-range missile to answer Russia’s material breach of the 1987 INF Treaty.

And U.S.-Russian relations are the worst since the end of the Cold War.

Next Stop Kursk

CAST adds only the 448th Missile Brigade in Kursk remains armed with the late 1980s vintage Tochka-U (SS-21 / Scarab-B) SRBM. Kursk-based Iskander-M SRBMs deployed to launch positions in southwestern Russia will easily reach Kyiv, and central and eastern Ukraine.

What Does Modern Mean?

Is this modern?

The Russian military reports routinely on the growing proportion of “modern types of armaments, military and special equipment” entering its forces. On November 7,  Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said:

“As a result, we have managed to increase the level of equipping troops with modern weapons by 4 times since 2012. Today it stands at 58.9 percent.”

Interviewed on October 31, MOD armaments tsar Yuriy Borisov stated that weapons and equipment in Russia’s permanent readiness units won’t be less than 60 percent modern at the end of 2017. The standing goal for GPV 2011-2020 is 70 percent.

The chief of the 46th TsNII recently gave the following percentages for modern armaments in the Russian inventory.

Percentage of Modern Weapons and Equipment

So Shoygu’s math above isn’t quite right — four times 16 is 64 rather than 58.9 percent modern weapons.

But what is modern? On Arms-expo.ru, military commentator Viktor Murakhovskiy not long ago described how the MOD categorizes its armaments.

The RF Armed Forces have five categories of weapons and equipment:

  • 1st category — New types entering the armed forces from industry which are under factory warranty and in use.
  • 2nd category — Serviceable types in use.
  • 3rd category — Types requiring some kind of repair.
  • 4th category — Types requiring capital repair.
  • 5th category — Types to be decommissioned.

Murakhovskiy turns to the RF standards agency to define modern armament:

Modern armaments are defined by state standard (GOST RV 51540-2005, Military Equipment, Terms and Definitions) — modern means a type of armament which is not inferior or superior to the best analogous foreign types in its combat, technical, and usage characteristics, or does not have foreign analogues.

All of which makes timely this little expounding on a point. New doesn’t always mean modern. There is new production of old designs. But by the same token one shouldn’t doubt that old weapons can be just as lethal and effective in combat as new ones in the right tactical situation.

With the long life cycles of today’s military technology, the distinction between new and modern will remain murky.

Take Russia’s Pantsir-S gun-missile air defense system. It was designed in the late 1980s and early 1990s to replace Tunguska from the 1970s. Because of Russia’s various troubles, Pantsir-S wasn’t produced until the late 2000s, and entered service by 2012. Obviously new but how modern? Now it’s slated for modernization by 2019. The Pantsir-SM is supposed to feature increased detection and engagement range with a new missile.

Slicing the GPV

Soon something like a final draft State Program of Armaments (GPV) 2018-2025 will go to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He’ll almost certainly affix his official approval prior to the end of 2017.

Many observers bet the new GPV will contain 17 trillion rubles for the MOD to procure weapons and other military equipment. GPV 2011-2020 was a little higher at 19.1 trillion. But the new GPV will disburse its rubles over fewer years. However, Russia’s high inflation rate (e.g. 11% in 2014, 13% in 2015) means a trillion rubles in 2011 bought more guns than it does today.

Last week, Deputy Editor Vladimir Gundarov published a pithy piece in NVO describing how the new funds might be distributed among Russia’s armed services. He sees a shift in favor of the Ground Troops and VDV which will force the Navy to “curb its appetite.” 

It happened already in GPV 2011-2020, writes Gundarov. It originally envisaged 4.7 trillion for the Navy, but this was reportedly cut to 2.6, while the army and airborne went from 2.6 to 4.2 trillion.

The rationale, he says, is multifold. The Ground Troops face the expensive prospect of fielding new generation armored vehicles on the Armata chassis. Given its involvement in wars in Ukraine and Syria, Russia faces a “complex situation” in the southwestern strategic direction requiring more attention to the army’s modernization.

But the main reason for rewickering MOD procurement is economic. GPV 2011-2020 was formulated with oil at $100 per barrel; it’s now half as much.

Gundarov concludes that Russia:

“. . . can’t spend money to buy arms and military equipment in the previous amount, particularly for such expensive systems as those for the Navy. So only the budget for strategic nuclear systems will be preserved whatever the price of oil.”

He doesn’t say where he got his numbers for this article, but it sounds like he based it on some expert opinion and off-the-record comments.